A cup of flour. A pinch of salt. An egg or two.
When I’m in the kitchen, putting together a homemade chicken stew or whipping together a batch of muffins, I feel a connection with my past. My French heritage. My Memere.
Although she is gone, Memere’s love of cooking and serving delicious, home-cooked meals to family and friends lives on. It lives on when my mom kneads bread in her kitchen. Or when my cousin Melissa makes a batch of homemade donuts. When my sister carefully pours molasses into a batch of baked beans. When Dad carves the turkey on Thanksgiving. And when I carefully fill thumbprint cookies with jam. A part of her is still here.
Because in all of us, there is the same desire to turn fresh ingredients into delicious food. We want to see others fed… want to see them find comfort and happiness from something that we carefully prepared. It’s more than just putting together ingredients. It’s a batch of muffins to say “welcome home.” A bowl of chicken stew to say “Feel better soon.” A peanut butter cookie to say “I love you.”
There was never a short supply of tempting treats at Memere’s house. Never. Stepping into her neat kitchen was like walking into the perfect bakery. The smells of baking bread or simmering soups. Brownies. Fudge. Chocolate – peanut butter balls. And I remember sitting in Memere’s living room, watching the Food network and ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over Paula Dean’s oatmeal-raisin cookies or Giada’s chicken parmesan. Together we decided what the best recipes were. Together we laughed as Paula Dean added yet another stick of butter or as Rachel Ray’s enthusiasm bubbled even more than her stew.
Memere has been gone for almost a year now, and I honestly still can’t watch the Food network without a pang of sadness. Without a thought of how much I miss her laugh and her amazing cooking. Yes almost a year. Yet sometimes missing her makes it feel like forever. For a long time, I couldn’t watch the Food network at all, because it was a constant reminder that I was now watching it alone. But time softens heartache. And memories live on, bringing a smile to my face when I think about all of those good times. And I’m realizing, more and more, that I want Memere’s legacy to become my legacy too. That I want all of those moments spent in her kitchen to make their imprint in my home.
I want people to find comfort and joy in my kitchen. I want them to step into my kitchen, to breathe in the aroma of home cooking, and to feel that they’re home. And I’m realizing, more and more, that my cooking is more than just an effort to put dinner on the table. That sometimes there will be flops, and mistakes, and learning curves. But in the end, it really is about my heritage. A family legacy that survives the test of time.
And — ultimately — it really is about family. Friends. And love.